Recent reports on around 25 per cent fall in number of patients in Jordan by the country’s Private Hospital Association (PHA) as a consequence of political instability have drawn the attention of GCC countries to potential medical tourism opportunities the development could offer.
Politically stable states of the GCC are well positioned to attract patients and boost their medical tourism even as high treatment costs could be a roadblock.
Countries across the region, especially the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been focusing on capturing a larger chunk of the thriving medical tourism worldwide which broadly entails attracting tourists seeking healthcare.
Recent years have witnessed heavy investment being directed toward equipping the hospitals with the latest medicare. Facilities and sourcing international accreditation from US, UK, Australia and Canada. Many new hospitals have come up and Dubai witnessed development of the Dubai Healthcare City with an aim to provide the best of medical treatment.
As a result of efforts in this direction, the region has seen enhanced awareness regarding medical tourism and increased efforts to attract tourists seeking medical care, if not a significant rise in numbers.
Decline in the number of patients in Jordan indicates that patients could be seeking more politically stable places to avail of medical facilities. However, analysts point out that high costs could be a bottleneck for GCC countries, particularly as neighbouring Asian countries like India offer much economical options.
Apart from the price factor in treatment, medical industry analysts have been highlighting the need to pay attention to another part of medical tourism equation–providing affordable hotel accommodation to patients and their families.
In 2010, the PHA estimated that medical tourism in Jordan generated revenue of $1 billion, accounting for over 4 per cent of the country’s GDP. Low cost of treatment, estimated at even less than 25 percent of what it’d cost in the US in some cases, had a strong contribution toward giving a fillip to this sector in Jordan.
“As such, a loss of 25 per cent of this revenue is massive,” said analysts. According to BMI, there has been a 90 per cent fall in number of patients in Libya, 60 per cent fall in case of Syria and a 50 per cent drop from Yemen.
Inspite of the cost aspect, the analysts pointed out that there is a segment of patients who will be willing to pay for high costs if they get superior services, facilities and for convenience.
It is this segment that the GCC countries can stand to gain in near term, the analysts said. To boost medical tourism in the long run, however, the region will need to consider the affordability factor.